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Lockner v. Pierce County

Court of Appeals of Washington, Division 2

May 9, 2017

MARGIE LOCKNER, Appellant,
v.
PIERCE COUNTY, a political subdivision of the State of Washington; and BLAIR SMITH, individually, and as an employee to Pierce County, Respondents.

          Lee, J.

         Margie Lockner appeals the superior court's summary judgment dismissal of her claims based on the recreational immunity statute, RCW 4.24.210. Lockner argues that the superior court improperly applied the recreational immunity statute because (1) she provided evidence that the place of her injury was used for transportation purposes and (2) she brought a negligence claim rather than a premises liability claim. This appeal requires us to determine whether Camicia v. Howard S. Wright Constr. Co.[1] limits recreational immunity to land opened solely for recreational purposes or whether the immunity extends to those lands serving multiple purposes.

         We hold that summary judgment was improper because Camicia limited recreational immunity to land opened to the public solely for recreational purposes and issues of material fact remain as to whether the area where Lockner was hurt was opened to the public solely for the purpose of recreational use. We also hold that the plain language of availability of RCW 4.24.210 extends to negligence actions. Accordingly, we reverse and remand for further proceedings.

         FACTS

         Lockner and her niece were riding their bicycles on the Foothills Trail in Pierce County. Lockner was riding behind her niece as they approached a riding lawn mower from the rear. The lawn mower, operated by a Pierce County Parks and Recreation employee, was mowing grass on the right side of the trail, moving in the same direction as Lockner and her niece. Lockner's niece rode past the lawn mower, and Lockner followed, attempting to pass with the lawn mower on her right. Lockner raised her left hand from the handle bars to shield her eyes from debris in the air from the lawn mower. She "quickly tried to veer to the left to get off the trail and that's when I clipped [Lockner's niece's] bike." Clerk's Papers (CP) at 76 (Deposition of Lockner). Lockner fell and was hurt.

         The County's website describes the Foothills Trail as:

The Foothills Trail sits atop a historic railroad bed and snakes through the river valley southeast of Tacoma. This 25-mile-long trail is a popular commuter route and recreational destination for bicyclists, while hikers enjoy shorter, more manageable segments of the trail. One of the most scenic sections for the unobstructed views of nearby Mt. Rainier begins in Orting and follows the Carbon River upstream through farmland and forest.
The Foothills Trail is a 12-foot wide non-motorized asphalt trail/linear park suitable for bicycles, walking, in-line skates and wheel chairs. It also has a soft shoulder path for equestrians.

CP at 62 (emphasis added).

         The County produced a "Pierce County Park, Recreation & Open Space Plan, " which included a "Regional Trails Plan" that stated its vision as:

The Pierce County Regional Trails System will be an accessible and seamless trails network used by people of all ages and abilities for recreation and transportation. Pierce County trails will provide users with the opportunity to experience recreation, solitude or companionship, and provide a practical transportation option. It will offer connections to major developed areas and attractions within the County, provide opportunities for appreciation of nature, and connect the County to the greater region.

CP at 59, 65-66 (emphasis added).

         Lockner filed suit against the County and the employee operating the lawn mower. The County moved for summary judgment, arguing that RCW 4.24.210 immunized the County from Lockner's claims. In support of the motion, the County filed the declaration of its Superintendent of Parks, which stated that the Foothills Trail "is open to the public for recreation between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., " and the Foothills Trail "is not a transportation corridor." CP at 103. The superior court agreed with the County and dismissed Lockner's suit. Lockner appeals.

         ANALYSIS

         Lockner argues that the superior court erred in dismissing her case against the County on summary judgment because (1) issues of material fact exist as to the trail's use for transportation purposes and (2) the recreational immunity statute applies only to claims for premises liability, not to her claims for negligence. We hold that summary judgment was improper because issues of material fact remain as to whether the Foothills ...


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